Wonder Woman movie review continues below.
Wonder Woman and Logan were two movies heading into 2017 which I was cautiously optimistic about. The main reason for this is because the respective movies in the same cinematic universe and franchise didn’t consistently hit the mark. I’m pretty pleased to say that both Wonder Woman and Logan are very well put together. While Logan wrapped up the Wolverine saga with Hugh Jackman, Wonder Woman is a solid origin story starring Gal Gadot.
Wonder Woman’s brief yet memorable role in Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice got me excited for what DC/Warner Bros could do with her character. In recent memory, I can think of three superhero cinematic moments which literally gave me happy chills. One is Superman in Man of Steel when he lifts off and breaks the sound barrier in flight. Second is the Black Panther reveal in full costume in Captain America: Civil War. And the third is Wonder Woman’s flying bull rush vs Doomsday.
The decision to make the first Wonder Woman solo movie an origin story is a good one for this generation of movie fans. Between DC Comic’s trinity, I’m very familiar with Superman and Batman’s beginnings. Wonder Woman on the other hand I didn’t know that much about until recently. I’ve never watched the 70’s TV show starring Lynda Carter. I’ve probably watched some animated shows featuring Wonder Women but she never resonated like the other superheroes.
It wasn’t until reading the “New 52” by writer Brian Azzarello and artist Cliff Chiang that I was properly introduced to Wonder Woman. The comic incorporates Greek mythology which adds an intriguing layer to explore the character and her world. Okay, some purists might shudder at tampering with Wonder Woman’s origin. In a way, the modern superhero movie phenomenon is an extension of Greek mythology and our adoration for gods and heroes.
DC’s demigod heroes like Superman and Wonder Woman who aren’t from the human world is a different approach to let’s say a more down-to-earth hero like Spider-Man. Wonder Woman is a distillation of admirable qualities many of us would like to aspire to. The mistake is to believe Wonder Woman represents power in and of itself. Rather it’s because she takes on the responsibility to help mankind to the best of her extraordinary abilities which makes her a hero, while the rest of the Amazonians shun their obligations. If knowledge is power, then realizing that we are all free spirits in conflict with our capacity for both good and evil is a meaningful struggle worth fighting for.
Director Patty Jenkin’s Wonder Woman captures these above mentioned ideas into a well told dramatic story. The emotional heartbeat lies in the relationship between Diana Prince aka Wonder Woman and Captain Steve Trevor (Chris Pine). Gal Gadot and Chris Pine’s likeable chemistry works in both playful, funny moments as well scenes with romantic overtones. Pine’s on-screen experience and charisma at times runs a risk at overshadowing Gadot. Gadot is good; however, she has room to improve at conveying facial expressions in critical dramatic moments. It’s not a big issue though, the strength of Chris Pine’s performance compliments Gadot’s acting abilities.
Each of the action scenes in Wonder Woman are set up so that the stakes and significance are clearly laid out. I will probably encounter resistance when I say that as good as the action scenes are I think the storytelling is Wonder Woman’s stronger feature. The obvious CGI in some places and the slight overuse of slow-motion during fight scenes took me out of the movie experience. The final battle did have a good emotional element to it. I just wished that there was more time to develop the main villain.
Wonder Woman’s story and tone is not exactly ground breaking. It doesn’t need to be. The hero’s journey is a classic tale told many times over. This film didn’t mess up the formula. Wonder Woman hits enough of the right notes moviegoers enjoy and expect: A hero you can root for and an entertaining mix of dramatic stakes, good action and some fun humor. Nothing too dark or dreary which makes it appealing to a mass ticket-buying audience.
Oddly, it’s when Wonder Woman becomes overtly comic book action oriented in the climatic scenes that calls attention to itself. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, it’s function of a big Hollywood blockbuster. The key is grounding the story in Wonder Woman and Steve Trevor’s relationship against the back drop of World War I, an era which represents a loss of innocence. Moving forward in the DC universe, it’s interesting that Wonder Woman in Justice League is an old soul, the elder of even Batman, within a newly formed superhero group.
To sum up my thoughts, Wonder Woman is a really good, enjoyable film that I’d rewatch when it’s out on home video. I can understand why other people want this film to be something more than it is and what Wonder Woman personally represents to them. For me, I’m not interested in politicizing this movie by forcing it into a particular narrative or an underlying agenda. So even though the end result is that I didn’t fall completely head over heels for this film, nor do I want to make hyperbolic claims that it’s a triumphant masterpiece, I respect director Patty Jenkins’s vision for Wonder Woman and the accomplishment of making a solid movie.